Pitt senior Matt Wilps, Penn State sophomore Nico Megaludis and Clarion senior James Fleming have a few things in common as they enter the NCAA Division I wrestling tournament, which begins Thursday at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.
These three former WPIAL stars earned All-America status a year ago at the tournament by finishing among the top eight in their weight classes. This year, they have their sights set on gold.
Wilps (19-2), a graduate of Chartiers Valley, placed fourth in Division I in the 197-pound class for the Panthers. He is seeded No. 3, with his only losses coming to the wrestlers seeded above him.
Wilps dropped a 4-2 decision to Kent State's Dustin Kilgore (39-0) in the final of the Midlands tournament. Kilgore, the top seed, won a national title in 2011
"A takedown in the second period was the difference," said Wilps of his loss to Kilgore. "He got in on my legs a few times and scored once."
Wilps traded pins with Penn State's Quentin Wright (27-0), the No. 2 seed. Wright was a 2011 champ and 2012 runner-up at 184 before moving up to 197. Wilps pinned Wright in a preseason exhibition match and Wright turned the tables in a dual meet later in the season.
Megaludis (24-3), a Franklin Regional graduate, was a silver medalist at 125 a year ago as a freshman for the Nittany Lions. He is seeded No. 4 this year after a disappointing third-place finish at the Big Ten tournament.
"I didn't wrestle well in the Big Ten tournament," Megaludis said. "It was the same last year. I had a bad conference tournament, then picked it up at the NCAAs."
Fleming (30-2) is a West Mifflin graduate making his fourth NCAA appearance at 157 pounds. He's seeded No. 5 after finishing fifth a year ago. He has a career mark of 122-18.
The 165-pound weight class is the biggest story of the tournament. Cornell senior Kyle Dake (32-0), the top seed, has a chance to become the first wrestler in NCAA history to win titles in four different weight classes. Penn State sophomore David Taylor (26-1), the No. 2 seed, is the defending champ at 165.
Penn State has entries in all 10 weight classes. The Nittany Lions are favored to win a third consecutive NCAA team title. Other contenders are Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma State.
Pitt has eight qualifiers for the second time in three years.
NCAA Division I qualifiers
Local colleges and wrestlers participating in the NCAA wrestling tournament, which begins Thursday in Des Moines, Iowa. National seeding indicated; record and weight in parenthesis.
Penn State: No. 4 Nico Megaludis (24-3, 125), No. 12 Jordan Conaway (16-8, 133), Bryan Pearsall (23-9, 141), No. 11 Andrew Alton (26-4, 149), No. 8 Dylan Alton (24-6, 157), No. 2 David Taylor (26-1, 165), No. 2 Mathew Brown (25-4, 174), No. 1 Edward Ruth (28-0, 184), No. 2 Quentin Wright (27-0, 197), James Lawson (21-7, 285).
Pitt: Sheldon Mack (17-9, 133), Ronnie Garbinsky (17-10, 149), Donnie Tasser (26-13, 157), Tyler Wilps (19-7, 165), Nick Bonaccorsi (17-7, 174), Max Thomusseit (14-4, 184), No. 3 Matt Wilps (19-2, 197) and No. 9 Zac Thomusseit (23-2, 285)
Edinboro: No. 4 A.J. Schopp (29-3, 133), No. 4 Mitchell Port (30-3, 141), David Habat (27-7, 149), Johnny Greisheimer (19-14, 165), Ernest James (22-12, 285).
Clarion: Tyler Bedelyon (20-14, 149), No. 5 James Fleming (30-2, 157).
West Virginia: Nathan Pennesi (21-9, 141); Davidson: Anthony Elias (11-8, 133); Kent State: Mackenzie McGuire (20-15, 133); Lehigh: Shane Welsh (18-6, 149); Lock Haven: Fred Garcia (26-10, 184); Maryland: Geoffrey Alexander (22-9, 133); North Carolina: Evan Henderson (34-6, 141); Virginia: Michael Salopek (13-5, 197).